Cairo redefines summer through sheer intensity of heat. Rather than "the warmest season of the year", it becomes "the hottest, most unbearably humid experience imaginable". With the heat wave bringing temperatures up to over 40 degrees Celcius, people take to the streets, coming face to face with humidity -- which leaves street vendors (bottom right) dizzy and ready for an afternoon nap. Uniformed traffic police (far left) and others whose work requires constant presence on the streets in too warm an outfit will readily give in to the only available option.
Seaside vacations may provide temporary relief, but few have the luxury to go on one. Away from the by now overcrowded North Coast, where a day spent by the sea is followed by an evening of entertainment in a classy restaurant, is an altogether different summer -- a summer devoid of luxury, for those whose economic conditions keep them in the city. Still, they find a way: sitting by the Nile is a popular option; the young like to swim in such publicly open waterways as the Qanater Al-Khairiya. Indeed, while the Nile is the only affordable summer outing for some, it is the home of others. Fishermen (bottom left) work by day, sleeping in their boats by night, together with their families.
A rather more strange escape from the heat is the hammam baladi (above) -- Turkish baths -- known, as much as anything, for their scalding hot water and steam. It nonetheless remains a suitable choice for those who enjoy a shower in the traditional way. At Bab Al-She'riya district, the hammam is open to women all week except Tuesday, which is reserved for men. Now heated with electricity, the hammam used to rely on a garbage fire, often on top of the building, of which fuul vendors would sometimes take advantage to cook their huge, firmly-sealed cauldrons of fuul overnight. A relaxing experience for its patrons, the hammam proves very unkind to the camera, with steam drenching the lens and the small parts taking two days to dry. Nor could you get the shot without the benefit of a special spray for the lens so that it wouldn't cloud over before you could release the shutter.
parent page (24 - 30 August 2006, issue #809)